A Dutch Past Worth Preserving
Closer look at 278-year-old
house in Claverack reveals architectural gems in the
By Times Union Newspaper, Albany, NY
Copyright 1996-2008, Capital Newspapers
Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, NY
BOB GARDINIER Staff Writer Date:
Thursday, January 11, 2007
CLAVERACK - Standing in an orderly
trailer park off Route 66 is a scruffy brick building
with broken windows that looks like it might collapse.
A casual passer-by might think
the building on a knoll overlooking the Claverack Creek
and on the property of the Dutch Village Mobile Home
Park is a storage shed for the park. Look closer. It's
much more than that.
The bricks in its construction
are smaller than the common building brick. Wooden pegs
and hand-turned screws were used as fasteners instead
of nails, and wrought-iron fleur-de-lis beam anchors
can be seen in both gables. Visible in the brick of
the east-facing gable are the large initials "T",
"I" (the Dutch "J"), "V"
and "H" fashioned from darker "clinker"
The house was built 278 years
ago by Dutch seafarer and farmer Jan Van Hoesen. He
came from a family of freeholders and was the grandson
of Jan "Jan the Red Head" Van Hoesen, who
bought the land that is now the city of Hudson and parts
of Greenport from the Mohicans in 1622.
The "T" is for Tanneke
Witbeck Van Hoesen, Jan's wife, who bore him 11 children.
The house is the only known surviving example in the
region of the type of monogramming in masonry done between
1715 to 1750.
"Those initials show that
the builder was very proud of his home, which was upper
class at the time," said Ed Klingler of Chatham.
"It's worn at the heels but full of details from
that peri od and certainly worth saving."
Klingler is president of the
Van Hoesen House Historical Foundation Inc. which is
working to purchase, clean up and save the structure,
which was added to state and federal historic registers
on its 250th birthday.
Some historical journals say
Van Hoesen built the house using bricks that were ballast
in his ships that crossed the Atlantic and brought goods
up the Hudson.
"I don't believe that is
accurate," Klingler said. "Bricks were being
made here in those days, and I don't think they would
have wasted space in a ship with them."
The house is one of about a dozen
pre-Revolutionary War Dutch homes still standing in
New York. It is just south of the circa 1737 Luykas
Van Allen House, which is now maintained as a museum
by the Columbia County Historical Society in the town
of Kinderhook on Route 9H.
Inside the house, which has not
been inhabited since the 1960s, the floors are wide
planks. Huge hewn beams make up the low ceiling, and
most people have to duck going through the doorways.
There are fireplaces on both
end walls that were originally Dutch jamb-less style,
with open hearths with large brick smoke hoods. They
were updated with jambs and mantels during either the
Federal or Victorian periods, which also are architecturally
significant, Klingler said.
"This is why I got excited
about this house," Klingler said. "So many
things are still intact."
Some original brass locks and
latches, which used huge keys to bolt the doors against
intruders, are still intact, as are several original
door hinges. The 13 stair steps leading to a second
floor were described in the paperwork for the state
and national historic registers as extremely unusual
in their architectural beauty and simplicity.
Original polychrome Dutch-style
decorations still can be seen painted on some door frames.
The two-story house also likely had the old Dutch double
doors, which are gone.
The home's location on a high
rise above fertile creek flats was common in rural construction
in the early 1700s, Klingler said. The rectangular house
also conforms to another rural pattern - the main entries
are in the side walls and its chimneys in the gables.
The arrangement was reversed in urban construction.
According to the New York Historical
Society Collections, Jan Van Hoesen was a mariner and
a freeholder, meaning he did not have to answer to the
king of England or later the Van Rensselaer patroons.
"He had a significant occupation
beyond that of a farmer, following perhaps in the tradition
of his grandfather, and opportunity to substantially
increase his income," according to the collection.
"Such prosperity would be necessary for him to
build such a substantial house reflecting northern European